Monday, March 22, 2010

Termite art -- part 2

I talked recently to the Quilters’ Day Out about how I perform “termite art,” obsessive work consisting of many, many little bits. In addition to the 2-inch pieced squares that I described in my recent post, I have done similar work in other series.

One was the use of selvages to make up large expanses of color. I stopped throwing out selvages years ago, realizing that I was in love with the interesting words and symbols printed on them. Finally I figured out what to do with them. When I make selvage quilts, I make a quilt sandwich of backing, batting, and plain white top fabric. I draw the design onto the white top, and then stitch selvages to the sandwich, attaching them and quilting the package at the same time.

When I first made selvage quilts, it was my first foray into what I will call “bad girl quilting,” allowing the raw edges and thread ends to hang out in public as well as using the parts of the fabric you’re supposed to cut off and throw away. I was nervous about doing this, exactly the way I felt the first time I ever wore pants to church – I was half afraid God was going to reach down from heaven and zap me. To appease the gods of quilting, I decided to use the most traditional patterns I could, to reassure them that I did respect the old ways even as I was transgressing.

On The Edge: Double Four-Patch

On The Edge: Rail Fence

Later I used the same technique to make letters of the alphabet.

Black I, 2001, 42 x 45

Blue J, 2003, 48 x 76

That's My Q, 2004, 87 x 56

I’ll write soon about another “termite” quilting technique that I’ve used, this one even more obsessive.


  1. I knew your name was familiar but hadn't made a connection until I saw "Black I". I love this series of quilts with long skinny pieces.

  2. I love these pieces. Just proves that sometimes bad is good.

  3. Fortunately, I buy a lot of fabric, and also many friends save their selvages for me. But right now I'm out of balance -- I have boxes of selvages but haven't made a quilt in a couple of years. Maybe they will call to me again soon.

  4. Hi Kathy,
    Have you seen the Vintage Ric-Rac Blog? Jodi made a dress,
    a parasol and a covered chair
    ...among other things...with selvedges.

    Pretty amazing. Jodi did some small projects with measuring tapes as well. She mostly makes soft toys now.
    Sandy in the UK

  5. Why I haven't come across your work before is a puzzle not worth solving; I'm here now, and I love it! You're the only person I've ever come across who saves it all, ALL, the difference being that you have made marvelous art out of your OCD. Have you ever considered including some small familiar object in your fotos for scale? a dime perhaps? Only mildly disruptive, and it would really show us what we're looking at.

  6. Hi PJs -- that's a good idea. I will go find a dime and take some new pictures. check it out tomorrow

  7. I really love these quilts .. and Green Ps. Absolutely marvelous that you have the patience and skill (I have to imagine it isn't easy to keep all those little pieces straight!) to create these. Wow! So glad you've been posting about these on the list so I could make my way over to your blog. Thanks for airing these out!

    And yes, sizes for the overall pieces and some sense of comparative scale would be great!

  8. Look at this wallpaper from today's LA Times.
    Bears textural similarities to your termite art from selvedges.

  9. Elena -- thanks for the link! The NYTimes had a note on this same product but yours has better photos. It's gorgeous but I wonder how long it will last, between the fading and the high acid level of newsprint. Also it costs $125 a yard. I want some!!!